A New Yorker’s Guide For Hiring A Foreclosure Attorney

Many homeowners are unaware of the unscrupulous and aggressive methods mortgage servicers and lenders use to pursue home foreclosures.

When dealing with these organizations, a lawyer specializing in foreclosure law can be effective in keeping you in your home if you’re facing a foreclosure.

Many people attempt to fight foreclosure on their own because they’re worried about legal costs. But, a foreclosure attorney can navigate the legal system and sometimes get a foreclosure canceled completely.

Attorney fees are not cheap so you’ll need to do some research to ensure that you hire someone who has a successful track record, is reliable, competent, and trustworthy. You don’t want to have to change attorneys while you’re in the middle of a case.

Why You Should Use A Foreclosure Attorney

New York is a judicial state, which means that a lender must go through the court to start foreclosure proceedings. For a New Yorker, this can take anywhere between six months and three years.

With mortgages, you’re dealing with large sums of money and complex laws. A strong lawyer will be able to apply specialized technical knowledge of foreclosure law to your case and form a powerful defense strategy.

A foreclosure lawyer can go through your documents – your promissory note, mortgage contract, bank statements, and related correspondence – and find a line of defense you might never have considered.

If you’ve been refused for a loan modification, you may want to consider consulting a lawyer who will have developed relationships with banks and lenders and be able to negotiate more favorable rates.

Where To Find A Foreclosure Attorney In New York

In 2019, there were 182,286 lawyers in New York, more than in any other state. Finding an attorney that specializes in foreclosures shouldn’t be too difficult. How, though, do you know if that attorney is any good?

Well, to find a lawyer, start by gathering a few recommendations through word of mouth and online. You can then dive a bit deeper with your research and find out a bit more about each lawyer’s personality and background.

You can then hopefully formulate a shortlist of the lawyers you feel most comfortable with before deciding which one you use.

Word of Mouth

To find a good lawyer, a sensible starting place is to ask family and friends for recommendations. Maybe they’ve been through a similar process and were happy with the results their foreclosure attorney got them.

If you have used an attorney for another legal reason such as an employment lawyer, perhaps they could also refer you to someone who they consider to be reputable?

The power of recommendation really is the best way to find out if a lawyer is any good. A Google search can never tell you how much a lawyer saved you, or how they managed to get your foreclosure canceled on a legal technicality. So network around your friends, family, work colleagues, and gym buddies.

Online

Any lawyer you find from New York State Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service will have been screened and approved so you can be confident of a certain standard. Any initial consultations with lawyers from the referral service will last for up to 30 minutes and cost $35.

If it seems likely that their service will be beyond what you can afford, a lawyer can still advise you on the most appropriate steps for you to take in avoiding foreclosure.

There are external, client-driven review sites, such as AVVO and even Google reviews to consider for third-party input, as well. 

What To Look For In A Foreclosure Attorney?

You may want to save money on legal costs by doing this alone. This can be a costly mistake.

A large component of an attorney’s legal training focuses on the ethical aspect. Members of the legal profession are expected to represent the highest in ethical values. Honesty and ethics underpin the profession and so lawyers are expected to be of good character.

To practice law in New York, attorneys must be registered with the New York Court of Administration and renew this registration every two years. If they don’t, this is considered gross misconduct and could lead to disbarment or suspension.

What is Disbarment or Suspension?

Disbarment is the stripping of a lawyer’s license to practice as a lawyer. In New York, an attorney is automatically and permanently disbarred if convicted of a state felony (a serious crime such as assault, murder, fraud, rape, or theft). You certainly don’t want to get caught out with hiring an attorney who costs you your home due to incompetence or dishonestly such as the “King of foreclosures”, David Stern. This Florida foreclosure attorney was disbarred for fraudulent conduct.

However, some argue that the disbarment rules in New York are outdated and unreasonable, as some other states do allow lawyers to apply to practice law seven years after their disbarment [4].

As the disbarment is automatic, it leaves no opportunity for appeal or for a legal panel to review the case.

The suspension is a temporary disbarment. An attorney who is suspended can apply to be reregistered once their suspension has come to an end.

You’ll want to check them out and ensure that they haven’t been disbarred or suspended for anything serious. Any good foreclosure attorney will have obtained a Certificate of Good Standing.

Certificate of Good Standing

In New York, lawyers can apply for a Certificate of Good Standing from the New York courts. The certificate confirms that the attorney has paid their biannual membership fee, that they have not been suspended or disbarred, and that they are registered with the Court of Administration.

Interviewing An Attorney

When you’ve narrowed your search down to maybe two or three lawyers you can arrange to meet them, depending on how much they charge for an initial meeting. Some may offer the first consultation for free.

Go into your meeting with your questions ready prepared. You will need to question them on topics such as:

  • What’s the best method to contact you?
  • What timescale can I expect for a reply?
  • Do you charge extra for phone calls?
  • Will you keep me updated on every development?
  • What’s your success rate?
  • Have you ever received any complaints?
  • Are you licensed to practice law in New Jersey?
  • What’s your experience in foreclosure law?
  • Have you had dealings with my bank/lender before?

Ultimately, when you meet a lawyer with a view to hiring them, it’s vital that there is a degree of rapport in your client/lawyer relationship.

When you meet, pay attention to how you feel in their company. Do they have a brash attitude? If so, that could be a good thing, or it might be a bad sign. It depends on the complexity of your legal situation and the rapport you build with your lawyer.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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